Deities of the Book of Caverns

    In the Book of the Amduat and the Book of Gates we saw the scene divided into three registers with the solar barque always appearing in the middle register along with the central theme of the hour.  The upper register showed us general underworld phenomena and the lower register shows ideas specific to the particular hour.  In The Book of Caverns, there is no division into the regions of the night hours.  Equally, the division of the registers in each section into three is not strictly observed and in all the versions of the Caverns the first two sections have five registers.  Further complicating the matter is the realization that this composition was designed for a left-hand wall and suffers when transposed to a right-hand wall as in the tomb of Ramesses VI and XI.

The Egyptian’s conceived of a number of caves or caverns which contained a host of deities whose purpose it was to punish evildoers.  This is hinted at in the eighth hour of the Amduat which shows a limited number of these caves.  From the walls of the southern section of the Osirion at Abydos, a composition known as the ‘Spell of the Twelve Caves’ enumerated the cavern deities.  The composition is also known from a papyrus dating to the time of Amonhotep II in the Cairo museum.  Part of this text is additionally to be found in the Book of the Dead; chapter 168 (caves 8-12).  The caverns are identified in all these as a place for the punishment and execution of the enemies of Re.  This is usually carried out by beheading.  However, the dead who have been judged as ‘justified’ can be aided by these deities. 

The Book of Caverns as seen in the Valley of the Kings is divided into six sections with two large representations of the sun god dividing the book into two halves of three sections each.  Additionally, the book includes two large representations of Osiris and the sky goddess Nut in section five which is in reference to the Book of the Heavens where the sun god travels through the body of the goddess at night.  The only indication of a solar barque in the Caverns is in the final section.  The other sections show the solar disk in the scenes with the exception of the lower register which is held especially for the damned and their punishment.  It is of singular interest that to the Egyptian, the idea of ‘hell’ was to be removed from the sight of the sun god for eternity.  Those in the lowest register of these underworld books are experiencing just such a fate.  Some indications of the deities found in the Book of Caverns in the Valley of the Kings are as follows.  The list is by no means exhaustive.

Cavern                            Deities

1            Serpent Guardians found in the Silent Region

2            Flame-breathing serpent, Osiris  Deities in sarcophagi

3            Aker (earth god), forms of Osiris, Catfish-headed gods

4            Great One Serpent, Osiris

5            Nut, Osiris, and Tatenen

6            Anubis, Horus, Osiris